The Good-Bye Man (round three coming up)

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rose
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The Good-Bye Man (round three coming up)

Post by rose » December 8th, 2009, 4:46 pm

My father had nothing to do with making that ship disappear. Probably. But when one’s own Dad is prominently mentioned in a book about a World War II Navy shipyard experiment gone awry, his name will forever after be associated with that rumored event.

Thomas Townsend Brown was a gentle man and a dedicated physicist whose peripatetic and constantly shifting career was the reason that I had attended 48 different schools before graduating from high school. When, almost 20 years after his death, an author approached me about helping him to write Dad's biography, I agreed, although I wasn’t sure what information I, a wife, mother, could contribute. Heck, I couldn’t even tell him who all of Dad’s past employers had been.


The Goodbye Man is the 80,000 word story of the events that transpired in Linda Brown’s life after she agreed to help with that biographical project. What might have been a cozy memoir composed of excerpts from the journals of an observant daughter takes on an unexpected flavor of intrigue with the appearance of a pair of high-level, clandestine operative types committed to seeing that T Townsend Brown’s legacy would become known and remembered.


I (rose) am the co-author for this in-process memoir. What you see above is basically the hook. Perhaps, with your kind help, I will be able to smooth this out before I post the second half of the query. Thank you.
Last edited by rose on October 27th, 2010, 12:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Nathan Bransford
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Re: My father had nothing to do with making that ship disappear.

Post by Nathan Bransford » December 8th, 2009, 7:42 pm

rose wrote:My father had nothing to do with making that ship disappear. Probably. But when one’s own Dad is prominently mentioned in a book about a World War II Navy shipyard experiment gone awry, his name will forever after be associated with that rumored event.

Thomas Townsend Brown was a gentle man and a dedicated physicist whose peripatetic and constantly shifting career was the reason that I had attended 48 different schools before graduating from high school. When, almost 20 years after his death, an author approached me about helping him to write Dad's biography, I agreed, although I wasn’t sure what information I, a wife, mother, could contribute. Heck, I couldn’t even tell him who all of Dad’s past employers had been.


The Goodbye Man is the 80,000 word story of the events that transpired in Linda Brown’s life after she agreed to help with that biographical project. What might have been a cozy memoir composed of excerpts from the journals of an observant daughter takes on an unexpected flavor of intrigue with the appearance of a pair of high-level, clandestine operative types committed to seeing that T Townsend Brown’s legacy would become known and remembered.


I (rose) am the co-author for this in-process memoir. What you see above is basically the hook. Perhaps, with your kind help, I will be able to smooth this out before I post the second half of the query. Thank you.
Hi rose, I think it's great that you're going to write this book about your father and the process of writing a memoir about him, though I'm not sure that it's totally necessary to say how the book came about, just stick to telling the story. I'm afraid I didn't quite come away sure what the first paragraph was describing, and wonder if that could use more clarity.

Good luck!

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Re: My father had nothing to do with making that ship disappear.

Post by J.Jessamyn » December 8th, 2009, 8:15 pm

Here are my 2 cents (disclaimer: I'm far from expert, but I'll try to refrain from giving advice like I am one)

- I had to read that opening paragraph a couple times. I like the first line and the "probably" following it, but the first part of the next line is what got me. "But when one's own dad..."

- the second paragraph isn't too bad, in my opinion, it just feels... incomplete. I think maybe some of the elements from the closing paragraph could be brought in here. If the story is about how it impacts Linda's life, then maybe it should be included more in the plot summary than in the conclusion.

However short, I hope this helped. :-)
~J. Jessamyn~

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Re: My father had nothing to do with making that ship disappear.

Post by rose » December 8th, 2009, 9:22 pm

Yes, Yes, thank you Nathan and brave souls. You were our first cold readers and as such, your impressions are so helpful.

Nathan, I am the professional writerly half of the co-author team, not the daughterly half. Hooks and queries are my department. I intend to footnote from the opening sentence to The Philadelphia Experiment http://tiny.cc/1UuAB by Berlitz and Moore. Unless you think it better to reference it in the sentence, of course.

I am going to go away now and do some more hook polishing. thank you ,again. I was going to leave the second half of the query, as it stands now, but it, too needs more work. This much, I think I like:

In the years that followed, Linda would learn that her quiet physicist father had been recruited into an international intelligence service in the mid-thirties. She would be told about his secret mission behind German lines during WWII, about his role in the Berlin Tunnel affair during the Cold War, and in the design of early spy satellites.
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Re: My father had nothing to do with making that ship disappear.

Post by Mira » December 8th, 2009, 11:58 pm

Rose, I have to agree with Nathan and J - I'm alittle confused.

It sounds like there are really interesting elements here, so let me be upfront about my confusion.....

First, it sounds like the book is about the father....but then it sounds like the book is about the daughter writing the book (?)...but then, another turn, and it sounds like the book is an action-adventure tale about the daugher writing the book and suspicious characters trying to stop her (?) or help her (?) write the book....?

So, I'm confused about who the protagonist is, and whether this is non-fiction or fiction.

What I will say is this - if the daughter is the protagonist, I'd start from her, rather than the father.

So, something like: Writing a memoir about a war hero who is also your father is not as easy as it may sound.

Well, don't use that voice - use your voice, of course. Also, you may want to consider first person voice on a memoir query. Now, I could be completely wrong about that, but it struck me, and I thought I'd mention it.

Um, hope that's helpful. :) I think you just need to clarify the story and genre alittle more.

Good luck! :)

p.s. as a positive, I thought your 'voice' in the opening paragraphs had character and flowed well. Easy to read and interesting. And the story also sounds really interesting.

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Re: My father had nothing to do with making that ship disappear.

Post by Mira » December 9th, 2009, 10:35 am

You know, I thought about this all night, Rose. I was worried I'd been too hard on you. Hope I wasn't!

I think I just got really thrown when the voice changed from 1st to 3rd person. I've never seen that in a query.

But I really like your writing voice - very confident. And I think the first line is great. :)

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Re: My father had nothing to do with making that ship disappear.

Post by rose » December 9th, 2009, 1:54 pm

Mira, Fear not I have no writerly sensibilities. They got beat out of me at a young age. This memoir is a story within a story kind of story, and yes, I am having trouble finding the biting point of it, but I shall proceed with the unvarnished truth of it.

None of this would have come light if Linda Brown had not agreed to work with the writer of Defying Gravity: The Parallel Universe of T. Townsend Brown (on Amazon at http://tiny.cc/IzfAi).

Once the author-daughter collaboration began, Linda's high school sweetheart whom she thought had died years earlier, reappeared in the story as a covert source for the biographer. When J.D, now in a position to command men and missions with a snap of his fingers, was called away from the project, he asked an octagenarian named Garrity to step in for him. Garrity was the British Special forces agent who had met Townsend on the ground when he parachuted into Germany. (Unbeknownst to Linda, Garrity had also been in and out of her own life in various disguises throughout the years.) "Dr." Brown had been a mentor and role model to both men and they wanted to see that he received his due honors.

When these two reappeared their presence exacerbated an already testy marital situation with a husband who resented (loudly) the time Linda was spending on the project: "If no one cared about your father while he was alive, why should they care about him now that he's dead?" She persevered in spite of his resistance and when the first draft of the Parallel Universe story was completed in 2008, JD and Garrity withdrew into the shadows again.

The author queried a dozen agents and got two requests for the proposal (pretty good gettin', I thought), followed by two rejections, the last of which caused him to quit in a snit, dumping his 600-plus page rough draft, the liveliest parts of which are quotes from Linda's journals, into LuLu print. He also shut down his own internet forum, a place where those who had followed the developing book, gathered to comment on each new chapter as he posted it.

Linda had come too far, written too much, and fought too hard to step back and let that shoddy book remain as the definitive monument to her brilliant father and gallant mother. When the miffed members of the former forum created a new gathering place for themselves (http://www.ttownsendbrown.com/forum/index.php) and invited her to put up her own story, she accepted the offer. And thus, The Good-Bye Man was born.


OK, if there are reviewers with the patience to help me hone or refocus that section, I could use your thoughts. In a fictional world I would pare and shape this story down to a narrow focus but I don't have the same freedom with this multi-generational interweaving memoir.

Thank you, all so much, in advance for your help.
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Re: My father had nothing to do with making that ship disappear.

Post by Mira » December 10th, 2009, 12:37 am

So glad to hear your writer sensibilities were beaten out of you at a young age. That's always a good thing. :)

You know, it may just be because I'm tired, but I had such trouble following your query. You definitely may want to get a second opinion on this.

But I think, okay, I'm going to say what I think, and again it could be way off base. I think you're being way too fancy here.

I think a query is a business letter sandwich. You have two slices of buisness:

a. why you are querying this agent, and
b. who you are as a writer

In the middle you put the storyline. (or on the top or bottom, for an open-faced sandwich, okay my metaphor is failing me here.)

But there are two important qualities, and the first is clarity. That's more important than hook. Hook IS important, but it's second. If the agent is confused, they won't be intrigued, they'll just stop reading.

So, I'd say, stop trying to draw the reader in. Just state it upfront:

While writing her father's memoirs, Linda found her own story; one filled with romance and intrigue. I have collaborated with her to write about her adventures. I am the author of....etc.

This story within a story has two simultanous plots that interweave and intersect. In the process, Linda becomes closer to her father and learns....etc. (and then tell each story)

What you are trying to say is really complicated. Definitely don't swich tenses - it just makes it more confusing. Stay first person - that would be my recommendation.

Does any of this fit? Again, I'm really tired, and I could be completely misreading this. So, please filter it through your own lenses.

Good luck!

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Re: My father had nothing to do with making that ship disappear.

Post by rose » December 10th, 2009, 12:03 pm

Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Mira. You must have sprinkled some magic fairydust over that last reply, because my eyes have been opened and I see what my problem has been:

I'm trying to make a synopsis do the work of a query. Duh.

Funny, how blind I can be to the source of my own difficulties.
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Re: My father had nothing to do with making that ship disappear.

Post by Mira » December 10th, 2009, 12:46 pm

Rose, I'm so glad to hear that! That's wonderful that I was able to help. To be honest, I've been very nervous about my feedback to you - so I'm glad it was useful.

You said it better than I did - I saw it more clearly as well once you said that you were trying to write a synopsis. Yes. Just a summary for a query. :)

Re-post, if you want, once you re-write.

Good luck - and, for what it's worth, I really like your writing voice.

p.s. I have trouble seeing my own writing clearly. The first query I wrote didn't work, but I couldn't see that until months later. I think most of us need feedback. :)

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Re: My father had nothing to do with making that ship disappear.

Post by rose » December 11th, 2009, 3:36 pm

I think most of us need feedback.
Oh, yes. If you have anything in process that you feel you need fresh eyes on let me know.

Thank you again for you help. I also see now that part of my problem as the co-author has been in finding the right POV after maintaining strict invisibility throughout the writing of the memoir.

I am honored that you like my writing. I can tell from yours that you know the craft very well. What's your genre? I thought mine was going be unpublished kidlit, but apparently it is going to be unpublished memoirs if I can't disguise the identity of the (single) biographer of T. Townsend Brown, as Nathan has said no real people should be identifiable in a memoir. It makes it difficult to tell true-life stories.

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Last edited by rose on December 11th, 2009, 7:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: My father had nothing to do with making that ship disappear.

Post by marilyn peake » December 11th, 2009, 5:08 pm

Rose,

The ideas you’re suggesting are fascinating. Reminds me of Nikola Tesla. I would explain why the issue of gravity is so important in this project and how it’s related to time travel, if time travel is what you’re hinting at. Really important is: Which shipyard experiment are you referring to? Are you referring to the Philadelphia Experiment? If so, that’s HUGE, and I would mention it by name. I think the main problem is that you’re trying to mention so many facts, it’s diluting the message, and a hook needs to be straightforward and succinct. Also, I wouldn’t mention Lulu.com in a hook because, for anyone skim-reading the hook to see if the project is something they might be interested in, chances are they’ll simply dismiss the entire project at the mention of Lulu. (Also, tiny edits: “rumor” should be spelled “rumour” ... “octagenarian” should be spelled “octogenarian” ... “J.D” should include a period after both initials: “J.D.” ... “Forces” should be capitalized in “British Special Forces”. Also, “The Goodbye Man” should be typed in all caps or bold print to make it stand out as a book title. And, in the last paragraph, I think that "T Townsend Brown’s legacy" should read "Thomas Townsend Brown’s legacy".) How about something like the following for a Summary with a hook (and Nathan would know much better than me if my version really contains a hook or not)...

My father had nothing to do with making that ship disappear. Probably. However, my Dad is prominently mentioned in a book about the Philadelphia Experiment, a World War II Navy shipyard experiment gone awry, his name forever associated with the rumoured time travel event.

Almost 20 years after my father’s death, an author approached me about co-authoring Dad's biography. I agreed, although I wasn’t sure what information I could contribute. Heck, I couldn’t even tell him who all of Dad’s past employers had been. I did know that he had worked with Thomas Townsend Brown, a gentle man and dedicated physicist whose constantly shifting career was the reason I had attended 48 different schools before graduating from high school.

Once the author-daughter collaboration began, my high school sweetheart – who supposedly had died years earlier – suddenly reappeared as a covert source for the biographer. When J.D., now in a position to command men and missions with a snap of his fingers, was called away from the project, he asked an octogenarian named Garrity to step in for him. Garrity was the British Special Forces agent who had met Townsend on the ground when he parachuted into Germany. (Unbeknownst to me, Garrity had also been in and out of my own life in various disguises throughout the years.) "Dr." Brown had been a mentor and role model to both the biographer and Garrity, and they wanted to see that he received his due honors.

The Goodbye Man is the 80,000 word story of the events that transpired in Linda Brown’s life after she agreed to help with that biographical project. What might have been a cozy memoir composed of excerpts from the journals of an observant daughter takes on an unexpected flavor of intrigue with the appearance of a pair of high-level, clandestine operative types committed to seeing that Thomas Townsend Brown’s legacy would become known and remembered.
Marilyn Peake

Novels: THE FISHERMAN’S SON TRILOGY and GODS IN THE MACHINE. Numerous short stories. Contributor to BOOK: THE SEQUEL. Editor of several additional books. Awards include Silver Award, 2007 ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards.

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Re: My father had nothing to do with making that ship disappear.

Post by rose » December 11th, 2009, 6:04 pm

Thank you, Marilyn. you are so generous with your time in the Internet writing community and I have come to think of you as one of the early forerunners of in the ebook field. Your advice wil be helpful to so many people.

I am so glad you recognize the Philadelphia Experiment. Linda and I were adither this morning about whether or not to keep that as the hook line. And yes, this gentleman was quite a Tesla type genius whose work has been incorporated in the most secret of Black projects.

I appreciate your help thoughtful help here.

rose
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Re: My father had nothing to do with making that ship disappear.

Post by marilyn peake » December 12th, 2009, 2:51 am

Thank you so much, Rose. Your kind words mean a lot to me! Best of luck with your book. It sounds absolutely fascinating, and I’m extremely honored to have met you here in Nathan’s Forum.
Marilyn Peake

Novels: THE FISHERMAN’S SON TRILOGY and GODS IN THE MACHINE. Numerous short stories. Contributor to BOOK: THE SEQUEL. Editor of several additional books. Awards include Silver Award, 2007 ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards.

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Re: My father had nothing to do with making that ship disappear.

Post by rose » December 12th, 2009, 12:53 pm

And I in turn, have felt honored to work with Linda Brown on this project. She is a wonderfully fluid writer whose only weakness is punctuation, but I overcommasate and so we balance each other out. (I put that in to make her laugh when she reads this.)

This is the adult narrative voice we have adopted for her, as opposed to the younger voice we use to in narrating relived memories. We are considering using this as the hook, because it is is more true to the flavor of the story as we are telling it.

Thomas Townsend Brown was one of the most brilliant and mysterious figures of the 20th century. He was also my father. From childhood on, I served as his virtual shadow, working first as his lab assistant and then as his secretary off and on until his death on Catalina Island, October 27, 1985.

At the end of his life when Dad organized his material, shut down his recorders, and saw to the final dispersal of his special papers, I wondered if he was accepting defeat after a lifelong struggle to obtain recognition for his work, but there was no sadness in his actions. He set about a purposeful completion of these final tasks and with everything in order, he slept away from us a few days later.

It was left to me to gather up his notebooks and papers and pack them in our well-worn black steamer trunk. Seventeen years passed before I opened that trunk again.


Any comments or thoughts about this completely different approach?
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